curious: unearthing poets at west norwood cemetary

There's simply nothing better than messing about in cemeteries. And I say this as someone who was turfed out of Pere Lachaise in my younger days by a steward who looked like he'd escaped from the set of Stingray. So being asked to take part in his year's Curious trail at West Norwood ( is proving to be the highlight of the pending summer.

I've located details of ten poets who are buried in the grounds, most of whom died in the 19th century though some have straddled into the 20th, including Demetrios Capetanakis (associated with the Bloomsbury group and who died of Leukemia in 1944) and Sydney Bernham Carter who wrote 'The Lord of the Dance' (okay, not poetry as such...). I have been delving into the extant published works of each poet, some of which I've been able to find online in snippets from digtised Victorian magazines. I've also had succees in locating poems in editions  from the collections at the Poetry Library and the British Library. So here's the idea for my artwork for Curious: I'm going to create an anthology of the dead poets' work engraved onto stones and bound in an edition. There will be a few copies of the book and for the exhibition I'll take back a stone to each of the buried poet's graves.

There's a real sense of responsibility in this, as one poet attempting to do justice to the work of dead poets. I can only fit two words from each of the dead poets' work into a stone. So there is a process of mass refinement and scrupulous decision-making around the words from each poet's poem that I'll have engraved on the stones. The brilliant Henningham Family Press will be making the book edition. The title for the book will be Clotted Sun: An Anthology of West Norwood Poets. "Clotted sun" comes from a poem by Capetanakis and will be his engraved poem in the edition.

Curious opens on the 22nd June and runs for 6 weeks. I'm making a short film about the process of researching the poets and making the book and will post here over the next few weeks.


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